Zoom chats can be surprisingly therapeutic

Seeing a smile, onscreen or in-person, can do wonders.

Dating, catching up with family, and going to happy hour are best in person. When those interactions aren’t possible, loneliness and even depression can creep in. However, we can still remain socially healthy by hopping on video chat.

The modern means of communication can boost emotional and psychological well-being in similar ways to in-person mingling. A 2013 Cyberpsychology study found that video chatters expressed a higher rate of emotional bonding than those who talked on the phone or texted. (The format was beaten out only by in-person meetups.) It seems the more immersive our experiences with others are, the more prone we are to bond. The reason, says Alan Teo, an associate professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, is likely that some 80 percent of human communication is nonverbal. Video chat, unlike audio or text, still lets us convey feelings via facial expressions.

When we make eye contact, we notice movements like a slight smile, raised cheeks, and squinted eyes, which our brain senses, decodes, and translates into readable emotional messages. Suddenly, the word “hello” becomes a spirited and genuine greeting. A little bit of face time may be all you need to keep your friends close and your mind healthy.

Sara Kiley Watson
Sara Kiley Watson

Sara Kiley Watson is an assistant editor at PopSci. Her work has also been featured in NPR and Business Insider. Contact the author here.